Once not allowed to play with his own classmates in youth football because he was too big, the 6-foot-5, 250-pound defensive end has been selected for the state’s biggest all-star game, the Alabama-Mississippi All-Star Classic on Dec. 15.
“I was going to have to play with kids like three and four years older than me,” Simpson said. “My dad thought it just wasn’t worth doing it and running the risk of getting hurt.”
Simpson is among the players on the 40-man roster, which is made up of current high school seniors and loaded with top-level recruits. Half have already announced their college intentions, including six heading to Auburn and three to Alabama. Simpson has committed to Mississippi State.
So far this season, Simpson has 23.5 tackles with nine for loss. He’s also recorded eight quarterback pressures with 4.5 sacks, a forced fumble and a recovery.
After only picking up the sport once he got into the Oxford program, Simpson looks to have made the right choice. He dropped basketball sometime back, and now his only other pastime is baseball, his refuge from his early days and his longest continuous sport. He expects to be a big part of the Yellow Jackets defense of their state title this spring.
But for right now, it’s just football, a place he said he feels comfortable. And he feels comfortable in Starkville, Miss., where he’ll travel this weekend to see the Bulldogs take on Tennessee.
He may not need to get comfortable playing just on the defensive end, though. Talking with the coaches at State, depending on his progression, Simpson could end up anywhere from tight end to closer to the center of the defense line should he put on even more size.
“It’s kind of ironic, I guess,” Simpson said. “What kept me from playing then is part of the reason I’m going on to the next level now.”
Bran Strickland is the assistant managing editor for The Star. He can be reached at 256-235-3590 or follow him on Twitter @bran_strickland.